Schwinn versus Huffy

I’m all about the Cyclechic movement to encourage people to ride bicycles in regular clothes.  Since I like vintage clothes, I personally take it a bit further and try to put together interesting, somewhat noticeable outfits for my daily trips around Milwaukee by bike.  I hope that by drawing a bit of attention to myself some people will say to themselves “Hey, if he can bike in that outfit, I can bike in jeans, dockers, flannel or whatever.”  The idea is that the more we normalize cycling as a practical mode of transportation, the more people will give it a try for short trips instead of jumping in the car.

The Cyclechic movement is certainly catching on.  The fashion industry has glommed onto bicycles as much as the bike industry has glommed onto fashion.  The cross polination has resulted in articles in as diverse publications as the Wall Street Journal and the Ralph Lauren Magazine.  Certainly using attractive people to sell products is as old as the marketing game itself, but because bikes have been marketed as recreation and sport for the last few decades, the return to traditional “sex sells” campaigns may hit a few snags before the mad men touch just the pressure points for the target audience. 

These 1972 Schwinn advertisements, for all their dated fashion, are right on target.  Regular people in regular clothes riding practical bicycles to go places. 

Tennis anyone?

OK, I would wear this outfit if I could find those socks somewhere. Well, I might skip the daisy dukes in favor of Prana knickers, but I’m down with the rest of it.
I say a resounding YES to this woman’s outfit. And why don’t bike shop owners start wearing used car salesmen suits again? Nothing like the smell of polyester and tri-flow in the morning.

Like all good things, “sexy” should be used in moderation outside the privacy of your bedroom.  When advertisers cross the line from “attractive” or “seductive” to “raunchy” they leave the realm of “sexy” and cross over into the “sexist zone.”  I don’t have a problem with people who have a fondness for Russ Meyers cult films and 50s sexploitation dime novel cover art, but that stuff will never work as mainstream marketing images.  As much as I wanted to like Huffy’s “Moms on Bikes” campaign, the more I look at the images, the more I think they crossed over the line from seductive to creepy.

According to Huffy’s marketing research, 75% of all bikes are bought by women buying bicycles for the whole family. I’m not sure I buy those numbers. I’d like to run them past the National Bicycle Dealers Association.  I would also like to have been a fly on the wall when Huffy’s agency Brunner did the focus groups for this campaign. Who were the women in those rooms that said these ads would make them go out an buy a bike? Now I don’t think these ads are totally sexist or blatantly raunchy, but they do draw more on the Faster Pussycat Kill, Kill/Real Housewives of New Jersey image than they do on the June Cleaver/Soccer Mom image Schwinn used in 1972. While many moms may actually watch (un)Real Housewives of NYC, I very much doubt the many of them identify with the characters.  I think the fascination is more like the gapers block at a car crash.  You know it could be terrible, but you can’t help but look.

I have written in depth on OTB about the disperity between the number of men who ride bicycles for transportation and the number of women. I believe that part of the reason women don’t ride is because they think they cannot wear dresses, heels or maintain their hairstyles on a bike.  Men have similar beliefs, but to a lesser degree. In countries with equal percentages of men and women riding bicycles for transportation, you see people pedaling in regular clothes and very few in lycra bike outfits.

On OTB, I frequently use images of attractive women and men riding bicycles in normal to fancy clothes, including heels and skirts to break the image of bicycles as recreational toys or sporting goods.  Because I am a man who occasionally uses images of women to market cycling, I make a very conscious effort to portray women in an attractive, but intelligent manner. Maybe because I have an impressionable 15-year-old daughter I am overly cautious in this regard, or maybe it is because my personal tastes lean more toward June Cleaver in an apron than the Snooki Polizzi in a halter top side of the female spectrum. 

Perhaps this is a bit too clean cut and stepford for today's female buyer, but I can't help but think implying women associate with dust bunnies is sexist and will backfire.

I’d like to know what my female readers think.  Did Huffy go too far?  Are these MOB ads sexist or just all in good fun?


About daveschlabowske

Cyclechic advocate from Milwaukee
This entry was posted in Cyclechic, Women and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Schwinn versus Huffy

  1. Russell says:

    for colored socks you can find them at The Soccer Shop @ 70th & North.

  2. Lance says:

    You want huffy?

    In the span of a few paragraphs, a pair of respectable shorts are derisively referred to as “daisy dukes,” and the euphemism “knickers” is substituted for the more accurate “capri pants.” This is a disservice to cyclists and chauvinists of all kinds and on so many levels.

    Lasses, be advised that “Daisy Dukes,” at least those deserving of capitalization, are cheekier than those sported by the unenterprising chap in the photo. They are therefore best left to only the females with the gams to pull it off, who should do so as frequently as weather will allow, if not a little more. Just as it would be preferable to err on the side of “too short,” likewise shall they err on the side of “too often.”

    Capri pants are best left to the ladies and hardcore metrosexuals. What’s more, men who want to see women bold enough to ride in dresses and heels should display more than their Achilles tendons. Cyclists’ have enviable legs, not to be hidden behind some veil of Victorian propriety. Are you really so bashful? That chicken mentality would go better with the chicken legs of those averse to pedalling.

    I laugh it off now, but when the mercury rises, it won’t be as funny when the best a gent can do is find “shorts” that catch at the kneecap, use as much fabric as a circus tent, and weigh the equivalent of several bowling balls. This prudishness must stop, it’s sweating me to death. Bring back the shorts, break out the quads, and let the cyclists reign supreme.

  3. mike d says:

    That guy in the orange is on my bike!..I have a vintwage Schwinn that is the exact color and everything…Maybe I should wear that outfit…Very Rickie Fowleresque!

  4. Mark G says:

    I went to Johnson’s Bike and noticed that the Soccer Shop is no longer in that space…so you may be out of luck.

  5. kfg says:

    “Knickers” is not a “euphemism.” It is the colloquial shortened form of an archaic American slang term; “Knickerbocker.” It refers to an overly conservative old man of Dutch descent – and by inference the out of fashion pantaloons they wear, which leave the hose exposed (as opposed to the now fashionable ankle length trousers).

    Capri Pants (a term invented by a fashion designer for marketing purposes, not the term of the people who actually invented them), Pedal Pushers, Clam diggers, Plus twos, et al are all modern forms of knickers.

    The English “euphemism” is the usage that is incorrect.

    So, to employ a euphemism of the New Netherlands – you can take your misinformation and your attitude and stuff them where the sun don’t shine.

  6. Kristen says:

    I had a pair of heels that I wore while biking, and maybe it was the type of pedals I have on my bike, but my heels were all torn up on the bottom after a few rides. I was pretty bummed – I love my shoes.

    I saw this tweet tonight (!/Zoya_NailPolish/status/84002181698686976) and it reminded me of this post so I figured I would share it with you. It’s hard to convince people that biking in heels is feasible.

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